Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rhubarb 101 and Coffee Cake

Although the weather says otherwise, it's getting closer and closer to summertime and that means it's rhubarb season! Rhubarb is like the prettier, more popular older sister of celery. While they look similar, rhubarb is infinitely better and sweeter whereas celery has no flavor whatsoever. I spent my Memorial Day weekend (#MDW? When did that happen?) testing rhubarb recipes of many varieties but first, a little background on this tasty fruit thing.

Rhubarb and the neighbor's dog in their natural habitats

You can find rhubarb at the grocery store for a select period of time in the late spring and early summer. The season is pretty short unless you grow some yourself. Lucky for me, my mom's neighbor has a whole bunch of rhubarb we were able to harvest for these recipes. I would happily add rhubarb to my urban garden revamp but it likes to be in a more natural habitat such as the ground rather than a pot.

The stalks should be cut as close to the base as possible

While rhubarb is typically red and makes lovely pink syrup, it's okay if it's green as well. When harvesting the fruit, you should cut stalks as close to the base of the plant as possible, starting on the larger and outermost portions. The trick is to allow the stalks underneath to get more sunlight and opportunity to grow. Use a sharp knife to cut the stalks and chop off the leaves.
I got to use the cleaver for these bad boys

Rhubarb is surprisingly sweet, if not tart. It can be used in baked goods, toppings or syrups. Last year, and many years before, my mom and I made strawberry rhubarb pie. Always amazing and always leaving leftover rhubarb which can be frozen for the another day or another year. Instead of pie, I ventured for coffee cake instead.

Pink and green and in between

Since I usually add rhubarb with strawberries, I was concerned the cake wouldn't be sweet enough but it was perfectly tart. This is a simple recipe of adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and chopping up the rhubarb. Strawberries would also be a delicious addition. The cake stays very moist when wrapped well for up to 3 days. Or even longer because I will eat it regardless.

Batter up!

On the next post of the rhubarb series, how to use rhubarb syrup to make sorbet and cocktails! 

A spiritually balanced breakfast

Recipe adapted (halved) from Shutterbean
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute)
  • 2 1/2 cups diced rhubarb (1/2 inch pieces)

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a loaf pan and set aside
  2. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat the brown sugar and butter by hand or with an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl until the ingredients are combined and creamy. 
  4. Add in (and beat) the egg followed by vanilla and buttermilk. Mix until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
  5. Add the flour mixture into the wet batter a little at a time. 
  6. Fold in the rhubarb so each bite will have some fruit (vegetable?).
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top until the cake is covered.

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